Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Ben Wishaw, Jim Broadbent
Synopsis: “An epic story of humankind in which the actions and consequences of our lives impact one another throughout the past, present and future as one soul is shaped from a murderer into a savior and a single act of kindness ripples out for centuries to inspire a revolution.”
Why It Could Suceed: The Academy might not be the biggest fans of sci-fi, but they do respect ambitious, larger than life projects. Think about all the epics that have won Oscars and how recently they’ve really responded to fantasy/sci fi films like Inception, Avatar and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. From all accounts and concept art, Cloud Atlas will be a visual feast in in that vein and if the filmmakers can pull of the complexities in compacting this incredible narrative into anything resembling a coherent plot, I could see the Academy responding positively.
Speaking of filmmakers, this movie is in great hands with the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) bringing the adaptation to the screen. It’s going to take a lot of hubris and visual flair to make this interlocking piece work. Considering that they were able to get this film made with only $101 million worth of studio money and convinced big names actors to take pay cuts, I’d say that they’ve at least something special here. This film just screened at Cannes and the reaction was positive, so much so that Warner Bros gave it a plum release date (Dec 7) despite the film being longer than contractually stipulated.
In terms of assembling a cast, you can’t do much better then the group here. There’s a fair balance of award winners (Berry, Broadbent, Hanks, Sarandon) and character actors in the mix and they will each be playing more than one character, gender non-specific; Ben Wishaw has already gone on the record to that affect. We all know the actors hold the most power in the Academy, so if the ensemble in this film is strong I could see them picking up awards heat especially at the SAGs.
Why It Could Fail: This film is one of season’s biggest question marks, just due to the laundry list of things that could go wrong (some of them reasons the film could succeed). The biggest of issue has to do with the level of difficulty there is with adapting the novel for the screen. How are they going to combine 6 different timelines, with 10 main actors each playing multiple characters and CGI in one 2 hour 44 minute movie? There is so much that adaptations inevitably have to leave out, but if the cuts they made hinder the story, the film will suffer. There will also be heavy pressure to adhere to the fans of the book and we’ve seen recently what happens when filmmakers become beholden to the source material.
Another issue regarding the narrative will be whether the compression of a 544 page will lead to complaints of the audience not being able comprehend what is going on. Inception was the last triply sci-fi movie to do well with Oscar, and while the narrative laid things out pretty plainly, people were still confused about what exactly was going on. I could see that happening to this movie very easily.
While the directors have directed some great films in the past, their recent outputs have been Speed Racer, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, and the lack luster Matrix sequels. That doesn’t give a lot of confidence that this film will be of the highest quality. Even when The Matrix was stunning the world and winning 4 Oscars, the Wachowskis couldn’t break through in Best Director.
Lastly, while this might seem like a film SAG will likely eat up, it can be incredibly hard for actors to generate awards heat when everyone in the movie is playing a different character. Who will voters have to latch onto and simpler than that, will the actors be any good in their roles?
Awards Speculation: This movie could run the gamut of either being shut out completely or being embraced wholeheartedly. This film will probably be somewhere in the middle, mostly picking up tech nods. I could also see this being a contender in the Adapted Screenplay category, but anything While this movie could do well with Oscar, this movie seems complicated enough is probably has too much going on to really do much in the awards season. However given the nature of the movie being part ensemble piece, part spectacle I suspect that the tech branches might throw some love its way.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Visual Affects
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing